Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD - Budget 2021 Dáil speech
October 14, 2020
Budget 2021 seeks to shield our economy and society through one of the worst crises in living memory.
The Government’s priorities in guiding the State through the pandemic are protecting the lives of our people and ensuring our economy can weather this storm.
The protection of our people is the core of the Department of Justice’s work and the record €3 billion allocation for Justice in this Budget, an increase of €200 million, will help the Department, its agencies and others in the sector in that task.
The Justice sector has been on the frontline throughout 2020, supporting our Health colleagues in the battle against Covid-19.
I am grateful to the women and men in frontline agencies such as An Garda Síochána, the Irish Prison Service and the Courts Service, the Office of the State Pathologist, Forensic Science Ireland and many others as well as to the staff of my own Department.
As has been said many times, the difficulties caused by Covid have accelerated the need for us to change and reform our lives.
I am pleased that my first Budget as Minister for Justice allows us to both protect our people, including the most vulnerable, and modernise the Justice Sector.
It also allows me to begin work on my priorities as Minister for Justice.
To strengthen and reform An Garda Síochána to ensure our communities are safe.
To tackle sexual, domestic and gender based violence, support victims and reform how vulnerable witnesses are treated as sexual offences are investigated and prosecuted.
And to modernise the Courts, immigration services, policing and other justice services to make them more efficient and easier to access.
We must continue to properly fund our frontline workers as they serve the public throughout Covid-19.
We must keep them safe as they work to keep us safe.
To this end, I have secured:
€13 million for PPE for An Garda Síochána
€5.7 million for increased PPE, cleaning and healthcare costs for the Irish Prison Service
€5.7 million for the Courts Service, including for additional premises to enable socially distanced and safe court sittings
€0.4 million extra funding for organisations responding to increased service demands from people impacted by domestic abuse during this period.
As I have said, one of my key priorities as Minister is driving the modernisation and digital agenda across the Justice Sector to ensure that our services are efficient and easily accessible.
Building on previous investment, new funding of €42 million will lead to a significant payback of improved public services right across the sector. Additional ICT spending in key areas includes:
an extra €22 million for Garda ICT, bringing the total to €71.2 million in 2021
a separate specific provision of €7 million for additional mobile devices and related costs under the Garda Mobility project
this unprecedented level of investment will enable continued investment in existing and new ICT systems which are critical to the implementation of the measures in the reform plan “A Policing Service for the Future”
€8 million for Year 1 of the Courts Modernisation Programme, almost €4 million of which is for ICT Investment
€5 million for the Justice ICT strategy. This significant development in will, among other things, enable me to reform the immigration area, where too many operations are still paper-based, and help speed up services to the public.
The total gross allocation for the Garda vote in 2021 is a record €1.952 billion. In addition to the increased funding for Covid and ICT measures mentioned already, the allocation provides for recruitment of up to 620 new Garda recruits and 500 Garda staff.
On that basis, there should be 14,700 Gardaí, with a further 300 recruits in training in Templemore by December 2021 – a total of 15,000. The allocation also provides for
An increase in supervisory ranks at sergeant and inspector level
Maintaining the overtime budget of €95m
€8 million for continued investment in the Garda Fleet in addition to the highest ever investment of approximately €15 million in 2020
€34 million for the Capital Building and Refurbishment Programme including the project to relocate from Harcourt Square to a new purpose-built building at Military Road
More Garda recruits and more Garda staff means extra members of the service on the frontline and in specialist units battling organised crime groups and keeping people safe.
An increase of €56.1 million (13.4%) brings my Department’s Vote to €474 million. This will be used to improve access to justice, to provide vital supports to those who need them and to provide better service to our customers.
With increased funding of over €2 million, bringing their total funding to €44.6 million, the Legal Aid Board will recruit additional staff and enhance delivery of its services across the country.
Additional funding of €4.4 million in current expenditure and €10 million in capital funding will be provided to Forensic Science Ireland for 2021. This brings the capital budget to almost €51 million, supporting the construction of FSI’s new state of the art laboratory in Backweston, Co. Kildare.
I am particularly pleased to have secured additional funding to support the important work of the Criminal Assets Bureau, the Inspector of Prisons and the Probation Service, among others.
CAB’s budget has been increased to a record €9.96 million. I know they are busier than ever and I am glad to have been able to provide them with additional funding to further increase the staffing.
The Prisons Vote will have a current expenditure budget of €358.5 million in 2021 and a capital budget of €36 million, mainly to complete the redevelopment of Limerick Prison. This represents an increase of €15 million in the capital allocation for 2021, providing for the complete modernisation of Limerick Prison, as well as eliminating the practice of slopping out.
The gross allocation of €158.8 million for the Courts Vote includes €8 million for the Courts Modernisation Programme which I mentioned earlier. The Courts Service has already shown impressive innovation and adaptability from the start pandemic, and in maintaining vital frontline services for those who need them, including the most vulnerable victims of domestic abuse. This will enable them to further advance the digital agenda to the benefit of the wider justice sector.
I recognise the Data Protection Commission’s increased responsibilities as the lead supervisory authority to the various multi-national organisations which have their European headquarters in the State and am pleased to announce an increased allocation of €2 million for additional staff resources. Following increases totaling €15.3m over the past 6 years, this brings the allocation for the Commission to over €19 million in 2021.
Domestic, sexual and gender based violence is a scourge on our society and organisations providing support for victims have seen demand for their services increase during the pandemic.
This Budget will allow the Government continue the funding provided for such organisations during Covid, and increase our support too.
The extra support will provide more remote counselling services, and help keep helplines open, as well as welfare packs and other practical supports for those most vulnerable.
Next week, I will outline how I intend to reform how vulnerable witnesses are treated as sexual offences are investigated and prosecuted. This plan follows the work done by Tom O’Malley in reviewing protections for such witnesses.
I am glad that €2.7 million has been allocated in Budget 2021 for this work and to support groups doing invaluable work in the area of domestic, sexual and gender based violence.
Finally, I would like to thank my colleagues, Minister Donohoe and Minister McGrath, for their support.
Budget 2021 will both protect our country and set a course for how we can emerge from this crisis stronger, and with an acknowledgement of how we can change for the better.